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16 July 2021

Best and worst UK hotel chains

Looking for the best hotel chain to stay at in the UK? We've rated UK hotel chains, based on the experiences of more than 4,000 customers.
Lauren Bell

Which hotel chain can you rely on when choosing accommodation in the UK? We asked thousands of Which? members to tell us about their experiences of large, medium and small hotel chains – and the previously unshakable Premier Inn, for once, didn’t land the top spot.

Normally you'd be willing to forgo the turndown service if the sheets were clean and the price came in at less than £70. Then coronavirus turned our world upside down and it wasn't just a good night's kip that was at stake. This year's survey results have highlighted that during the pandemic you were willing to pay more money for a hotel stay.

So, how did the UK's hotel chains fare? Did one of the many Hilton brands bag a top-five spot as usual? And can Britannia, a hotel chain that usually languishes at the bottom of the table, finally climb a few notches?

For more reviews, as well as exclusive investigations and expert advice, subscribe to Which? Travel.

Large UK hotel chains

This year's results, which are based on 4,326 experiences, saw Sofitel land the top spot. However, Premier Inn, Holiday Inn Express and Hilton Hampton also scored highly and, along with Sofitel, are Which? Recommended Providers (WRPs). 

Britannia Hotels received one star for cleanliness, and the lowest customer score for the eighth year running. It seems that this hotel chain has no inclination to rectify its major shortcomings.

LARGE HOTEL CHAINS (31 or more hotels in group worldwide)WRPAverage price paidBathroomsBed comfortBedroomsCleanlinessCommunal areas & facilitiesCustomer serviceDescription matching realityQuality of foodValue for moneyCustomer score
Sofitel (40)Y£148
Premier Inn (1,614)Y£60
Holiday Inn Express (244)Y£70
Hampton by Hilton (77)Y£80
Crowne Plaza (114)
Hilton Doubletree (116)
Hilton Garden Inn (50)

Small and medium UK hotel chains

This year's results, based on 400 experiences, sees Warner Leisure’s all-inclusive (and by no means cheap) stays triumphing over its small and medium chain rivals. It was closely followed by Hotel Du Vin, and we've made both these UK hotel chains Which? Recommended Providers (WRPs). 

SMALL & MEDIUM HOTEL CHAINS (maximum 30 hotels worldwide)WRPAverage price paidBathroomsBed comfortBedroomsCleanlinessCommunal areas & facilitiesCustomer serviceDescription matching realityQuality of foodValue for moneyCustomer score
Warner Leisure (126)Y£125
Hotel Du Vin (40)Y£130
Malmaison (40)
Apex (40)
Q Hotels (40)
Village Hotel Club (40)
Young's Hotels (34)

Large UK hotel chains: Which? Recommended Providers

Sofitel – 86%


You told us you felt like your holiday had started early when you checked into the Sofitel at Gatwick or Heathrow, two of its three UK-based hotels. And the chain's five-star central London property, St James, which occupies a former bank, is even more decadent. Think dazzling chandeliers, plush banquette seating and gleaming marble floors. 

Sofitel hotels are pure luxury – but you pay for the privilege, with rooms costing £148 a night on average. The hotel chain's sweep of five stars across most categories in our results table means customers value everything from its bathrooms and bed comfort to its customer service. So it's unsurprising that survey respondents repeatedly used the word 'quality' to describe the chain.

Sofitel was the only large UK hotel chain to clinch a full five stars for cleanliness.

Which? verdict: A glorious indulgence that's worth splashing out on

Browse Sofitel's full range of hotels.

Premier Inn – 82%

Premier Inn

Premier Inn gets consistently good ratings. While you wouldn’t choose the UK’s largest hotel brand for a special occasion, you can still expect a quality bedroom, an extremely comfy bed and a choice of pillows. 

The phrase 'good value' was used frequently to describe Premier Inn in our survey. And at just £60 a night on average, it's no surprise. That's a whopping £88 less than the cost of a stay in a Sofitel hotel.

With a full five stars for customer service and four-star ratings for cleanliness and value for money, Premier Inn is a worthy WRP for the eighth year in a row. 

Which? verdict: Consistently clean and comfortable, at an affordable price. 

Browse Premier Inn's full range of hotels.

Holiday Inn Express – 77%

Holiday Inn Express

Holiday Inn Express has climbed our table of large hotel chains this year and found itself in the top three. 

It clearly lives up to its self-proclaimed 'simple and smart' mantra, which is valued by customers – especially as it costs just £70 a night on average. In fact, it mostly scored four out of five stars across all the categories in our results table, including value for money, with an impressive five stars for customer service.

The hotel chain only fell down on the quality of its food, with some customers describing the breakfast as 'basic' and 'adequate'. But one individual was impressed with the option to have a takeaway breakfast: 'You can have breakfast on the go – great idea.'

Which? verdict: For a fuss-free overnight stay that offers both comfort and service, this well-priced hotel chain ticks all the boxes.

Browse Holiday Inn Express' full range of hotels.

Hampton by Hilton – 76%

Hampton by Hilton

Usually at least one branch of Hilton slips into the top five of our results table, and this year it was Hampton by Hilton. The UK hotel chain, which targets both business and leisure customers, promises to be 'high-quality and consistent'. But is it up to scratch? 

Our survey respondents seem to think so. Those who stayed at the Hampton by Hilton at Gatwick and Bristol airports particularly enjoyed the convenience of being close to the terminals. In general, the hotel chain scored mostly four out of five stars across the categories in our results table, including bedrooms, bed comfort and cleanliness. One customer commented: 'No frills, but a good standard'.

However, it didn't fare so well for quality of food, gaining an average three stars in this category. 

At £80 a night, on average, for a room at a Hampton by Hilton, the hotel chain appears to be reasonably priced, although it received an average three stars out of five for value for money.

Which? verdict: Clean, quality lodgings at a decent price, with free breakfast always included.

Browse Hampton by Hilton's full range of hotels.

Small and medium UK hotel chains: Which? Recommended Providers

Warner Leisure – 81%

Warner Leisure Hotel

A little like Center Parcs for grown-ups (no kids are allowed), Warner Leisure has 14 historic properties in scenic country and coastal locations across the UK. Customers awarded it four or five stars in every category in our results table, with cleanliness and bed comfort proving to be big hits.

The big draw is the hotel chain's range of added extras. The price usually includes gym and pool access, daily activities (such as archery and golf) and evening entertainment. As for food, you can opt for bed and breakfast or choose the half-board option – you can expect a full three-course meal each night.

While a stay at a Warner Leisure hotel is certainly not cheap, at £125 a night on average, as one satisfied customer commented: 'It's expensive but worth it.' Another chipped in that their stay was 'good value for money considering the amount of activities and variety of entertainment on offer'.

Which? verdict: A grown-up stay somewhere that's more than just a place to sleep.

Browse Warner Leisure's full range of hotels.

Hotel du Vin – 77%

Hotel du Vin

Hotel du Vin, with 19 boutique hotels throughout the UK, claims to focus on luxury, fine dining and good service. But does the reality match up to this hotel chain's promises?

Scoring four out of five stars for its bedrooms and quality of food, Hotel du Vin appears to have impressed customers in both these categories. Rooms tend to be timelessly decorated and offer a variety of little luxuries, from Egyptian cotton sheets to plasma TVs, Nespresso machines and underfloor heating. The beds are obviously a hit, too, as they were rated the full five stars for comfort.

The hotel chain's customer service also impressed. One customer who had visited the Stratford-upon-Avon hotel commented: 'All staff were very attentive'.

Overall, Hotel du Vin has good ratings and a decent customer score, but according to overnight guests, there is room for improvement in its communal areas and facilities. Customers rated both just three stars out of five.

Which? verdict: Boutique decor, fine dining and stellar service make Hotel du Vin hotels an excellent option.

Browse Hotel du Vin's full range of hotels.

Worst hotel overall

Britannia – 37%

Britannia Hotels

‘Dated’, ‘unloved’ and ‘past its prime’ were some of the nicer things you said about Britannia. Alongside these comments, we also heard about 'filthy' rooms of a 'very poor standard', and food that was 'beyond awful'.

It's no surprise, then, that Britannia's best rating across the categories in our table was a meagre two out of five stars. The chain received just one star for cleanliness and bathrooms, too.

Britannia hotels can look appealing from the outside; the chain's Folkestone hotel occupies a prime position on the harbour. But we discovered a standard basement room inside to be dirty and drab. One customer described the chain's Scarborough hotel: 'The entrance is the grandest part. After that it’s all downhill.'

Which? verdict: Dingy, dilapidated and depressing. Avoid. 

How we rate UK hotel chains

In July 2020, we asked 4,327 Which? members and members of the general public to complete an online survey about their experience of staying in small and large UK hotel chains in the past 12 months. To be considered a chain hotel, the hotel group must have a minimum of five UK properties. Large hotel chains have 31 or more properties in the group worldwide, while small to medium chains have a maximum of 30 properties in the group worldwide.